December 30, 2008

Lesson of the Lesser Antilles

Filed under: Climate Extremes, Hurricanes

Are you tired of winter yet? How about a vacation to some warm tropical island with outstanding golf and scuba (excellent winter sports)? If we suggest the Lesser Antilles (also know as the Caribbees), you might immediately agree; a second later, you might realize the shortcomings of your geography training and wonder where on Earth you are going for this vacation.

As seen in the map below (Figure 1), the “Lesser Antilles” include islands that wrap around the eastern end and southern fringe of the Caribbean Sea. The names of the subgroups include the Leeward Islands in the north, Windward Islands to the south, and the Leeward Antilles north of Venezuela. You will find names like the Netherlands Antilles and the Greater Antilles – you will immediately get the “Antilles willies” trying to figure out what names correspond to the various islands! Columbus arrived in these parts in 1492 and thought he was close to India, and the term “West Indies” was the popular as well. Various European languages still refer to the Caribbean Sea as the “Sea of Antilles.” The origin of the word “Antilles” is still debated with some who believe it is related to “Atlantis” while others think it came from the Latin ante-ilha (i.e. “the island out before” or “the island in front of”). You decide!


Figure 1. Map of the “Lesser Antilles”

The good news is that the boundaries and names of the subgroups of islands are loosely defined and not particularly important to our essay. Looking at the map, it is apparent that any of these islands might make a terrific getaway this winter. Of course, if you delay given a weak economy and wait until late next summer or next fall, your trip may be interrupted by tropical storms and hurricanes that frequent the islands. And if you listen to the greenhouse advocates, you will be led to believe that the hurricanes in the Caribbean Sea region are becoming more frequent and/or more intense. If you get bored, do a web search on “global warming and hurricanes,” and when you are done looking at 500,000 websites, we will welcome you back to World Climate Report! Actually if you conduct such a search, you might be impressed with the evidence that is presented to counter the global warming – more hurricane activity story hyped by Gore and others.

Our interest in the Lesser Antilles was heightened by a recent article in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems by Chenoweth and Divine who managed to secure funding for the research from the Norwegian Research Council and NOAA’s Climate and Global Change Program. They note that “In the Atlantic basin, the Caribbean region has several centers of continuous European settlement dating from the early 1500s in the Spanish colonies and the 1600s in other European colonies. Hence, there is strong potential for estimation of tropical cyclone activity in this region at least three centuries back in time.”

The pair of scientists cleverly compiled information on hurricanes from ship logbooks, newspaper accounts, state reports, official government gazettes, meteorological registers, consulate office reports, and more commonly relied-upon meteorological observations. From all the archival material and meteorological observations, they were able to produce the graphic below (Figure 2) showing hurricanes and tropical storms over a 318-year period. If you see no upward trend, join the world of reality! Despite all the claims to the contrary by the global warming advocates, there is zero evidence that hurricane activity is increasing over the three centuries of recorded events. Furthermore, it is far more likely to miss a hurricane 300 years ago compared to today, and this under-representation in the past should have produced a clear upward trend in the data.


Figure 2. The number of (top) hurricanes, (middle) tropical storms, and (bottom) both hurricanes and tropical storms passing through 10–20°N 61.5°W from 1690 to 2007. A 21-year moving mean calculated by fitting the Poisson distribution to 21-year segments of the time series is superimposed (from Chenoweth and Divine, 2008).

In describing the results, Chenoweth and Divine note “There is no evidence of trend significant at the 5% level for the entire record or for shorter segments (such as 1899–2007 and 1970–2007) but there is multidecadal variability that produces peaks and troughs in counts of up to 50% from the long-term average.” Furthermore, “The number of hurricanes passing through declined in the 20th century on the order of ~20%. Tropical storm numbers show little change over time. The net result is a nonstatistically significant decline in tropical cyclone frequency in the Lesser Antilles region. This decline is present even in the undercounted ocean areas north of the islands and we conclude that the actual decline is even larger than depicted in this area.”

It gets even better as they state “Major hurricane numbers over 12–18°N (the most accurately and reliably sampled sector) were 20 from 1701 to 1800, 19 from 1801 to 1900 and 16 from 1901 to 2000 and none have passed through since 2000.” They say “For whatever reason, fewer tropical cyclones reached hurricane intensity along 10–25°N 61.5°W in the past century than in previous centuries.”

They summarize noting “We find no evidence of statistically significant trend in the number of tropical cyclones passing through the region on any time scale. While tropical cyclone numbers show no statistically significant trend hurricane frequency is down about 20% in the 20th century compared to earlier centuries. This decline is consistent with the 20th century observed record of decreasing hurricane landfall rates in the U.S.” How about this line … “Although there is no significant long-term trend since the beginning of the series the period 1968–1977 was probably the most inactive period since the islands were settled in the 1620s and 1630s.”

We have produced countless essays on the global warming — increased hurricane activity pillar of the greenhouse apocalypse (e.g., Gore’s Katrina coverage), and over and over we find no evidence from throughout the world to support such a claim. We are told the debate is over and that scientists are universally in agreement on this important subject. Nothing could be further from the truth, and nothing could be more at odds with the empirical evidence. Nothing could be more frustrating from the perspective of anyone willing to question the greenhouse dogma.

Reference

Chenoweth, M., and D. Divine (2008). A document-based 318-year record of tropical cyclones in the Lesser Antilles, 1690–2007. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 9, Q08013, doi:10.1029/2008GC002066.




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